Weekend Wanderings: Yakima Valley

Photo Credit: Tyra Bleek and Freehand Cellars

Calling all wine and beer lovers: Yakima Valley is just a short two-hour drive from Seattle, and is a wonderful place to visit! With wine and beer abound, incredible farm-fresh cuisine, and plenty of outdoor adventures to choose from, Yakima Valley is truly an underrated gem we want to put on your radar.

Being a huge wine lover, I had an amazing time on my recent weekend trip in Yakima. We tasted our way through wine country, indulged in a lot of delicious food, visited a couple of breweries, and got to see some of the famous Yakima apple orchards!

It was a memorable weekend, and I’m excited to share some of my favorite spots with you!

Mini Charcuterie Boards at Freehand Cellars. Photo Credit: Tyra Bleek

WHERE TO EAT

Tandem Unicycle is a pop-up restaurant by Yakima-raised Chef Jacob Garland. Chef Garland uses local ingredients from Yakima Valley and cooks what is fresh each season. You can find Tandem Unicycle popping up at both breweries and wineries in the Yakima, Tieton, and Wapato areas. We stopped here for dinner while doing a beer tasting at Single Hill Brewing in downtown Yakima and were thoroughly impressed. The menu for the night included Hawaiian Rice Bowls with Ling Hing Mui Pork (so tasty!), mac salad, and spam musubi with house-made spam. The meal was full of delightful flavors and paired perfectly with our beer flights. Make sure to check out Single Hill Brewing if you are a sour beer or IPA lover!

Photo Credit: Essencia Bakery

To start off your day, stop at Essencia Artisan Bakery for breakfast. Essencia is a bakery and chocolaterie located in downtown Yakima, providing fresh baked breads, pastries, and other assorted confections. While I am known to love bakeries, but this place seriously blew me out of the water. While Essencia is the destination for artisan pastries and bakery goods in Yakima, their breakfast sandwiches are an absolute must-try. I tried one with roasted mushrooms, egg, and goat cheese, and my mouth is still watering thinking about it! You can enjoy your meal inside the bakery or outside on their sunny patio. Essencia’s daily menu is posted on their Instagram.

Next up is Il Grasso, the perfect spot for a delicious, picturesque dinner that also happens to be at a winery – does it get any better than that?! I felt like I was transported to Italy for this meal. The house-made herbed focaccia, grass-fed black angus tenderloin, and wood-fired lobster with linguine are all fantastic. The restaurant itself is situated out on a beautifully decorated terrace with views of nearby lavender fields, which really sets the scene. Il Grasso is located at J. Bell Cellars, which offers premium, small-lot, handcrafted wines. The 30-acre property includes a tasting room, gift shop, picnic area, large events field, and a five-acre lavender field.

Il Grasso at J. Bell Cellars. Photo Credit: J. Bell Cellars

For home-style breakfast with a twist, make sure to visit Main Stop on the Ave. Owner Maria Lua combines Mexican ingredients and American cuisine to create amazing flavors, and she has attracted a loyal customer base since opening in 2017. The chorizo benedict with refried beans, avocado, and cilantro lime hollandaise is to-die for. I loved the old-school diner vibes here. It’s the perfect spot to eat at after a long weekend of wine tasting!

You can’t leave Yakima without grabbing a burger or a bratwurst from the impressive Cowiche Creek Brewing Company. Owned by a couple with roots in the hop industry, the expansive outdoor space delivers stunning views of Cowiche Canyon and surrounding hops fields. Their beer is deliciously refreshing, and the food menu is super fun and creative. The JBC brat with Tillamook cheddar cheese-jalapeno spread, bacon, chives, and sriracha mayo was my personal favorite, but I’ve heard the pork belly burger is also a show-stopper. Make a stop here on your way back to Seattle!

Cowiche Creek Brewing Company. Photo Credit: Craft Beverage Yakima

MUST-VISIT WINERIES

Onto my favorite topic, WINE! There are so many incredible wineries in Yakima Valley, I already can’t wait to go back. Our first winery of the trip, Owen Roe, has been producing beautiful wines from superior sites in the Pacific Northwest since 1999. Co-founders David and Angelica O’Reilly have a passion and history dedicated to fine wines, and together they have crafted a diversified portfolio that has been recognized globally by critics, wine writers, and consumers. Enjoy a tasting or a glass with stunning views of miles and miles of sprawling vineyards. The staff here were incredibly knowledgeable, and the wines were fantastic. They also do daily tours of their facility and give you a glimpse into their winemaking process – super cool!

Speaking of stunning views, another must-visit winery in Yakima Valley is Freehand Cellars, founded by architects in 2018 who were seeking a venue to expand upon their artistic expression. All grapes are harvested by hand, ensuring that only the best possible grapes are selected for fermentation. You can definitely tell how much precision goes into the winemaking here. I could not get enough of their Rosé and Pinot Gris! I also highly recommend getting the charcuterie board – it’s easily one of the best I’ve had. The space is absolutely beautiful with sweeping views of the valley, and the winery hosts weddings and private events in addition to tastings. There is even on-site lodging available, perfect if you want to stay right at the winery for the weekend!

Freehand Cellars. Photo Credit: Tyra Bleek

VanArnam Vineyards is yet another gorgeous winery to visit in the Yakima Valley. Boasting views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, and rolling vineyards, it is a favorite stop for wine tasters. VanArnam is a family owned winery, started by Kent and Allison VanArnam in 2007 with their first Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard. Since then, they’ve designed and created a production building, outdoor courtyard, one-acre lawn with concert stage, vineyards, a grill restaurant, and a rental cottage. They host Saturday concerts throughout the summer, and we were lucky enough to be able to attend one during our weekend visit! Such a great time!

If you’re a sparkling wine fanatic like me, then you will love Treveri Cellars! Treveri is Washington’s only dedicated sparkling wine house. The family-owned business produces some of the finest handcrafted sparkling wines in the country. Since its opening in 2010, Treveri wine has been served at White House State Department receptions and the James Beard Foundation in New York. Producing a wide array of sparkling wines, including non-traditional varieties such as Riesling and Mueller-Thurgau, Treveri focuses on 100% varietal wines. I loved the sparkling Syrah because it was so unique! This is yet another spot with amazing views.

Gilbert Cellars at Hackett Ranch. Photo Credit: Gilbert Cellars

The final winery that is not to be missed while visiting this area is the lovely Gilbert Cellars. Located at the gorgeous Hackett Ranch, Gilbert Cellars is situated in the middle of miles and miles of fruit orchards, vineyards, and lavender fields. The ranch can be described as “magical” and a “little slice of heaven.” It is family-owned by fifth generation Yakima Valley fruit growers. Gilbert Cellars crafts ultra-premium, true-to-varietal Washington wine. Their Pinot Noir is an absolute must-try. Don’t leave Yakima without making a visit here!

ACTIVITIES IN THE AREA

It may come as a surprise, but there is actually plenty more to do in Yakima Valley besides drinking wine and beer! One of the things you should definitely do while in the Yakima Valley is check out one of the beautiful orchards. Barret Orchards and Johnson Orchards are both great options. I especially loved visiting Washington Fruit Place & Gifts at Barret Orchards. They have freshly-harvested fruits, locally-made ice cream, handmade foods, and home décor. Enjoy mouth watering, tree-ripened fruit grown in Yakima Valley’s rich volcanic soil, picked fresh daily in season. I also highly recommend their candles and different flavors of mustard. You are also free to take a stroll around the orchard while visiting.

Washington Fruit Place & Gifts at Barret Orchards. Photo Credit: Washington Fruit Place & Gifts

Another famous Yakima activity is whitewater rafting on the Tieton River. The Tieton River is the fastest-moving, fastest-dropping river in Washington. Every September, water gets released from Rimrock Lake, creating 12 miles of whitewater rafting and kayaking. Although I wasn’t able to go this year due to the wildfire smoke, I’m looking forward to going next year!

Whatever you choose to do on your trip, you are guaranteed to have an amazing time in Yakima Valley. A highly underrated destination that should be high on your list. Cheers!